A Chat with the BMA’s New Board Chairman, James Outland

/ Interviews

James Outland speaking at a Collectors Circle Dinner.
James Outland speaking at a Collectors Circle Dinner

The Birmingham Museum of Art welcomes James Outland as he assumes his new role as Chairman of the Museum Board of Directors.

James Outland is a founding member of Birmingham-based private equity firm New Capital Partners, a Corporate Partner of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Outland has over 25 years experience in private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and business development leadership. Prior to founding New Capital Partners in 2000, he served in various key roles in the healthcare industry. Outland is a graduate of Southern Methodist University where he earned a BA in Political Science and a BFA in Advertising.

A longtime supporter of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Outland has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2012. He is an avid collector of contemporary art and a member of the Museum’s collection support group, Collectors’ Circle for Contemporary Art, where he served as Board President from 2011 to 2013. He was a member of the 2016 Museum Ball Committee, serves as the Chair of the Exploratory Committee for the Museum’s 2015 Feasibility Study, and currently acts as a member of the Museum’s 2016 Strategic Planning Committee. He and his wife Elizabeth live in Mountain Brook with their three children.

We asked James a few questions to help you get to know him better. We hope you will join us in welcoming James to his new role during this exciting time for the BMA!

Birmingham Museum of Art: James, how did you first become interested in contemporary art? Who are some of your favorite artists?

James Outland: I have always appreciated and been amazed by the talent associated with the arts; most likely resulting from my complete lack of artistic ability. When I was 22 years old and living in Atlanta, I met an artist named Todd Murphy and literally borrowed $1,000 from the bank to buy a couple of his works, including a very large mixed media painting which was 8’x 6’. Over the years, my wife Elizabeth and I have loved filling our home (and closets and attic) with art we love. My favorite artists include Franz Kline, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, Ed Rusha, Andy Warhol, Richard Pettibone, Pierre Soulages, Ed Moses, Charles Arnoldi, and many others. I would also say, in my opinion, that our Birmingham Museum has one of the finest Joan Mitchell paintings in existence.

BMA: The BMA is opening its first major contemporary exhibition featuring works from our own collection. Over the next two years, Third Space/shifting conversations about contemporary art, will showcase the BMA’s own contemporary collection and explore the themes of the global south, shared identity, and culture. This show is a departure from the format of the BMA’s past major exhibitions in scope, content, and duration. What is most exciting to you about this project?

JO: First of all, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, our Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, is a major talent and we are lucky to have her here in Birmingham. I am excited for the show to see how Wassan pulls it all together and I am excited for Birmingham to see the incredible collection of contemporary art that is resident here in our Museum. What I love about this show is the fact that we have a tremendous collection and this is an opportunity to share that collection broadly. What I think few people recognize is that our Birmingham Museum is one of the best in the country.

BMA: What are your top priorities for your tenure as Board Chairman?

JO: The Birmingham Museum of Art is a significant asset for our community. It is a leading cultural institution that is critical in attracting talented and interesting people to Birmingham and it is an educational jewel for our children and adults alike. We have great opportunities to continue to build upon the foundation of the Museum and the board is focused on five key initiatives which include helping to further develop and empower our employee team members, grow attendance and membership, increase the endowment, broaden our public and private partnerships, and enhance the physical facility of the Museum to improve access and openness.

BMA: When not appreciating contemporary art or inking a successful merger deal, what do you and your family like to do for fun?

JO: We enjoy going to Lake Martin where we have a cabin, although we don’t get to spend as much time there as we would like. I have a daughter who is in college, a daughter who is a senior in high school, and a son who is a sophomore in high school, so that keeps us busy.